Starring Raj Kapoor’s dream of a better India, Rishi Kapoor’s trendsetting sweaters and Ranbir Kapoor’s self-introspection, my week could well be titled Kal Aaj Aur Kal.
Dekha hai teri aankhon mein pyar hi pyar beshumar— Dharmendra fawning over Vyjayanthimala and her trademark kohl-lined eyes on the television screen catch my attention. Nothing overdramatic about his assertions except there is a lot more to the legend’s big, expressive eyes — easily her best feature — than ardour.
The yesteryear actress and doyenne of dance, who just turned 80, conveys a world of drama and depth through them. “I was taught to be a dancer. We speak with our eyes,” she told a newspaper in a recent interview.
Be it doubt, distress, desire, mischief, melancholy, conceit or coyness, the Madhumati star’s eyes mirror her on screen state of mind like few can. Made this collage as a tribute to the one about whom Kishore Kumar sang, “aankhon se sama gayi dil mein.”
Beta, sweater pehno!
What are the odds of Saif Ali Khan prancing about in a sweater Rishi Kapoor wore in the same year as him romancing the same heroine as him? As your friendly neighbourhood Bollywood trivia scavenger, I am more than happy to answer that.
So there’s this off-white sweater with large maroon, blue and green spheres sported by Kapoor, championing the cause of knitted fashion since forever, in a lake scene of Saajan Ki Baahon Mein (1995) co-starring Raveena Tandon. It’s one of those rotten melodramas you think you’ve forgotten about completely until they return to haunt you on YouTube.
Now I’ve watched the lovey-dovey Chaha Toh Bahut in Harry Baweja’s Imtihaan (1995) way too many times to get it wrong. As suspected, Saif is wearing the exact same jumper whilst cozying up to Raveena before a campfire in the concluding bit of the melody.
Wonder if their common love interest noticed any similarity and pointed it out to either of her co-stars.
An intricate mystery from Hollywood’s collection of golden classics goes a long way in shaking off some of the disappointment of three consecutive movies (Rustom, Mohenjo Daro, Suicide Squad).
Like its tagline suggests, The Honey Pot, directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, “cordially” invites you to enjoy and perhaps even solve a “perfectly elegant case of murder.” It’s a sophisticated, sharp whodunit peppered with romance, intrigue, humor and seductive Rex Harrison as the millionaire –both controlling and at the centre of all the action transpiring inside his palatial abode in Venice.
Based on two plays (Mr Fox of Venice and Volpone) and a novel (The Evil of the Day), the 1967 film blends its multiple resources to weave a shrewd tour de force enriched by terrific performances, lush production values and delightful dialogue.
If you haven’t watched it but plan to, the lesser you read about it, the more satisfying its surprise.
It’s Raksha Bandhan! And since it falls on the same day as my classics column, I pick Raj Kapoor’s fifth film as producer Boot Polish, which, among other things like desire for a India’s progress post-independence, poignantly highlights the affectionate bond between a brother and sister. As stated in my article, what I like most is how their relationship plays itself out naturally without relying on stereotypical symbolism.
Later that evening, I attend the screening of Happy Bhag Jayegi, directed by Mudassar Aziz for producer Anand L Rai. The latter’s Tanu Weds Manu is a visible influence on this Indo-Pak comedy of chaos, especially Jimmy Shergill’s once again rebuffed by the bride character.
Despite the potential of its ambitious premise, Happy Bhag Jayegi doesn’t quite soar. Like I wrote in my review, its “creativity has the texture of a well-meaning school play, where kids generate excitement by reacting excessively to any situation or yelping at the top of their voice. What’s cute there seems daft here.”
Subconsciously one knows that it’s only a matter of time before Ranbir Kapoor bounces back in a manner show business measures success. This belief is only strengthened after hearing his views in a fascinating new interview to journalist Rajeev Masand where the 33-year-old talks about his flops, future, heartbreak, love for football and two dogs –Leo and Guido.
The duo caught up at his grandfather Raj Kapoor’s sprawling Chembur home. At some distance, I spot an old porch swing facing the neatly mown lawn. It’s the same one you’ll see in Simi Garewal’s documentary on the showman, specifically a clip of the latter’s birthday celebration sitting on the said swing flanked by his knee-high grandkids – Kareena, Riddhima and Ranbir.
At one point in the video, RK Sr tells a reluctant Ranbir to go inside and change into a nicer outfit.
Years later, it’s surreal to see his grown-up self welcoming the need for change, (even if for completely different reasons) “I am in that phase where I have to change, my films have to change, my pocket of expressions have to change, the tricks in my magic bag have to change.”
I don’t know if this is Ranbir at his most candid or critical. But I cannot think of a more self-aware actor in this industry.
A curiosity to know the true colour of a costume, worn by stars of black and white movies, takes over me every time I see something I like.
There’s an utterly graceful Sadhana on screen singing Tera Mera Pyar Amar from Asli Naqli draped in a lovely woven sari. I’ve always imagined it to be mustard yellow with a black border.
Then there’s Madhubala frolicking to Main Sitaron Ka Tarana in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi in a heavily sequined gown. Could it be a shade of mauve?
A fiercely swaying lamp producing a stunning show of light and shadows, a wistful flute playing in the background, a cascade of memories of love lost and never forgotten, a bumpy bullock cart ride from the railway station to Paro’s house and a devastated, dying passenger restless to reach his destination.
I often revisit this scene from Bimal Roy’s Devdas for the sheer craft of its filmmaker and Dilip Kumar’s tempered intensity as the doomed hero of a tragic romance. My blood pressure dips every single time I witness his severely exhausted body language and sorrow-filled eyes underlining the exasperation of his inquiries —Arre bhai, kya yeh raasta kabhi khatam nahi hoga? Simple and yet so profound.
In his memoirs The Substance and the Shadow, Dilip Saab writes, “the dialogues of Devdas are replete with a haunting sensitivity, spontaneity and meaning. They came from the pen of Rajinder Singh Bedi, one of those rare writers whose syntax was so perfect that the simple lines he wrote inspired actors to build up deep emotions in their rendering. Being myself not given to superfluous speech, I appreciated the precision and brevity of the lines he wrote.”
This column was first published on rediff.com.
Also read on Super Filmi Week:
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise